Saturday, November 17, 2012

Is Hamas Provoking Israel?

a well written article about Hamas’ ambitions in its struggles with Fatah (PLA) and Israel and Hamas’ strategy in the current confrontation with Israel.

While there are many who believe Israel wants war because of an impending election, many others believe that Hamas is seeking to provoke Israel to go to war and very much wants Israel to respond as it has done, and even to invade.

At the time of the last war between Israel and Hezbollah, there was considerable information to suggest that Hezbollah wanted Israel to attack and invade southern Lebanon.

This is obviously a dangerous situation and not one likely to improve soon. Israel finds itself in a bit of a Catch-22.

Things are a bit more complex than they might appear at first blush.

My Partial Wish List re Famous People

(1) Nancy Pelosi should have stepped down after 2010 debacle; sorry she’s still House Democratic leader;

(2) Dick Morris should be fired by FoxNews;

(3) McCain ought to follow Lieberman’s lead and retire while he can still do it gracefully;

(4) Anderson Cooper should have focused on his daytime show which was cancelled as that was his strength;

(5) Rachel Maddow should return to old form and have on more guests including Republicans; enough with her constant chatter, the charm has worn off;

(6) Joe Scarborough should run again for Congress (and hopefully lose) and abandon his early morning show where he talks nonsense;

(7) Mitch McConnell should look himself in the mirror and realize he looks even worse smiling than he does straight-faced, and then retire;

(8) CNN should give Wolf Blitzer and John King special speech training to overcome monotone for Wolf and Gatling gun delivery for John;

(9) American public should come to realize Petraeus was no genius, that his counter-insurgency strategy leaned heavily on British strategy in Malaya in the 1950’s that some of us oldsters actually recall, and that his recent hijinks reflects dangerous hubris;

(10) Laker fans should rejoice that the team isn’t turning once again to Phil Jackson but rather moving on to something and someone new;

(11) Jerry Brown should cancel the bullet train and consider himself lucky that Proposition 30 passed;

(12) Chris Matthews, George Will, Brit Hume and Diane Sawyer ought to step aside and let younger voices move up and be heard; you’ve all faded considerably.

SORRY but this is only a partial list. There will be more later.

Originally posted on Nov. 15, 2012

Concerns About Nate Silver's Statistical Modeling & Obama's Ground Game

I was commenting to a Facebook friend who had posted about the failure of Romney’s ORCA ground game to get out the vote versus the success of Obama’s GORDON technology to track Obama-leaning voters when some of my concerns about all this somewhat crystallized.

In some ways, some developments in this campaign leave me a little concerned, in particular Nate Silver’s incredible ability to predict and the Obama campaign’s incredible ability to map (apparently named Gordon). Obviously the data is out there so it isn’t as if either is inventing data or corrupting the process. But that’s true when it comes to all of the tracking done by Google, our telephone companies, our ISPs and the like in this electronic/digital age and the challenges all this tracking, recording and storing poses to our personal privacy and, perhaps, our individual freedom. I, like many others, have become increasingly concerned about the ways things can be and are monitored, mapped, stored, retrieved and used to predict, manipulate, and the like.

I’d say I’m feeling some diffuse anxiety about all this, particularly as these techniques, approaches, strategies and the like will only become more prevalent.  I’m not a Luddite and I’m glad Obama won.  And, the use of sophisticated statistical modeling with respect to data already collected by others is different from collecting data in order to control, manipulate and mislead others.  But the increasing ability of organizations, including governments, to accumulate and aggregate all of this data is quite scary.

Originally posted on Nov. 10, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Need for Presidential Leadership

"We want you to lead, not as a liberal or a conservative, but as president of the United States of America," said John Boehner, R-Ohio, Speaker of the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, November 7, 2012, the day following Barack Obama’s reelection as President. "We want you to succeed. Let's challenge ourselves to find the common ground that has eluded us. Let's rise above the dysfunction and do the right thing together for our country."

I don’t know whether Boehner was being truly honest in his remarks as, in the same breathe, he expressly opposed a key Obama campaign pledge that would allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, and the tax rates in place during the Clinton years to apply, with respect to those Americans making more than $250,000 per year.  But I concur with Boehner’s expressed sentiments.

I voted for President Obama this Tuesday and contributed to his campaign, as I had done in 2008.  I am extremely pleased that he won reelection.  But I want him to adopt a somewhat different leadership style this time around.  I want him to lead openly, forcefully and directly, reaching compromises when they serve the national interest.

In his first term, President Obama too often sought to stay above the fray, letting Democratic leaders in the House and Senate do battle with Republican leaders to hash out the particulars of various bills and public policies.  This was true during the battle over the stimulus bill early in the President’s term, equally true during the fight over the Affordable Care Act, and repeated again during the pitched battle over increasing the debt ceiling.  President Obama had spoken favorably during the 2008 presidential campaign of former President Ronald Reagan’s approach to leadership by which he remained above the fray, stepping forward nearer the end to embrace a particular policy or piece of legislation.  And, indeed, Obama adopted this same approach.  In my view, it was and continues to be a failure. 

I believe that had Obama openly led the fight over healthcare reform from the outset rather than let Nancy Pelosi and others do much of the heavy lifting and fighting in the trenches, Obama would have been required to explain its terms far more clearly to the American people than was the case, and the enormous opposition to it might well not have materialized the way it did.  Instead, most Americans, myself included, did not understand the funding or other aspects and ramifications of Obama Care.  Many remain confused by its terms to this day.  I think Obama could have better promoted his stimulus bill at the outset of his presidency had he been in the lead using the bully pulpit at the time he was seeking its passage.  And I believe that the fight over raising the national debt ceiling might have been less harmful to the nation had Obama been more visible during the conflict. 

Obama was more visible in some instances involving domestic policy during his first term, such as the auto bailout, his executive order assisting young immigrants who were brought illegally into this country as children, and his change in position on same-sex marriage, and he benefited greatly from having adopted these policies.  As well, he was very active in providing leadership and very visible in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and that served him well, as it did those deeply affected by the storm.

If President Obama is going to have a successful second term, he must abandon his “above the fray” approach and provide open and direct leadership from the outset on major policy and political issues, domestic and international, including addressing what is now being called “avoiding the fiscal cliff.”  Abandoning his old style won’t be easy, as it seems to comport with his nature and personality. 

Indeed, I was a bit concerned to hear the President say that he looked forward to working with both political parties, in his remarks on Election Night.  Mr. President, you are the head of one of those parties!  Yes, you should and will need to work with the leaders, and rank and file, of your own political party. But his choice of language, reminiscent of his comments during his first term, suggests that he is above the parties and their conflicts.  He is not!  He heads the Democratic Party and must lead it and the nation.  

Nor will abandoning this “above the fray” approach assure a successful second term.  It won’t.  But, in my view, if he fails to step forward and provide more robust leadership now, he will not succeed in his second term.